Time is funny. Minutes can seem to last hours, yet years can fly by in what feels like minutes.
My 81/2 years with the Star Journal and Hodag Buyers’ Guide have been filled with long hours, deadlines and plenty of cups of coffee. I wouldn’t change any of it.
I remember my first assignment vividly. As I sat at the City of Rhinelander Finance Committee meeting in June, 2004, I must have had that “deer in the headlights” look. Frankly, I had no clue what I was doing. Here I was, a green 23-year-old straight out of college. My writing background consisted of a several year stint as the sports editor of my college newspaper at UW-Stevens Point. As the committee discussed city finances, I was lost. They might as well have been speaking Latin.
After that meeting, as I sat trying to make sense of my notes, two of the committee members, councilmen Dick Johns and Doug Weight, introduced themselves and asked if I had any questions. For the next hour, the two veteran politicians sat with me in that committee room and answered every question I had. As I got up to leave, both shook my hand, saying they were happy to have me here in Rhinelander, and if I ever needed anything, give them a call. I had my first two sources. I never forgot that.
That memory came flooding back to me this week as I started packing up my office. The Rolodex on my desk is filled with names and numbers of people I’ve talked with over the years. I printed out my email contact list-26 pages and 436 entries. Too many people to try to thank.
Just as I was lucky to meet Dick and Doug early on as a reporter, so have I continued to be lucky to interview and edit stories about people from every facet of life in the Northwoods. As I packed my office, I tried to imagine how I might organize the stories if I had to pack all of the narratives into well-labeled boxes.
I would need a large box for the politicians: the good and the bad. Local elections have always been an all-consuming task. Advocates and activists also would need several boxes. Their work in countering the systemic issues of poverty and violence, as well as watchdogging the environment, and providing services for children, artists and animals, remains, in my mind, the underpinning of the Northwoods’ spirit.
In addition to covering these groups, the Star Journal has always given coverage to the people and organizations who strive to improve the area’s quality of life. I am particularly proud that we have been able to support organizations such as Downtown Rhinelander Inc., the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, the Oneida County Fair and the YMCA of the Northwoods, whose work plays such an important role in our community.
I know the next editor of the Star Journal will find this job as rewarding and challenging as I have. He or she is sure to have days, as I have, when the desire to get in the car and just drive, with no end in sight, is overwhelming.
I expect the next editor will be named in the not-too-distant future. In the interim, our magazine and specialty publications editor Timi Eckes, and associate editor Mary Ann Doyle, will take on the role. Timi and Mary Ann are two of the many talented people with whom I have been exceedingly lucky to work over the years. They will be supported by an amazing team. Through the work of these people, and so many others, the Star Journal has seen readership numbers rise to all-time highs (even though print media is supposedly a dying industry). We have been able to take on difficult stories and issues with depth and passion because of the support and belief in doing so held by this company, and by publisher Pete Daniels.
Finally, at the risk of devolving into abject sappiness, the greatest honor has been the continued avid engagement of the Star Journal‘s 22,000-plus readers. The Star Journal, like every newspaper, has had to change its game significantly over the last few years, and continues to ponder the print/digital equation. At the same time, its relationship with the Northwoods, forged in 1977 when the paper was founded as the Our Town, remains as feisty and old school as ever. I will miss it! (But not entirely, as I am staying in the Northwoods and will be working for Cole Publishing in Three Lakes, in case you were wondering).
For someone who never really intended to write a farewell column, this one has grown rather long. Perhaps it’s time to sign off, save, of course, for saying: Thank you.